At least 60 students in Cherokee County quarantined after exposure to COVID-19

CHEROKEE COUNTY, Ga. — Dozens of students are already out of school in Cherokee County just days into the new year.

They've had to quarantine because of four positive cases of COVID-19.

Channel 2′s Steve Gehlbach was in Cherokee County, where a teacher and three students have tested positive. The teacher teaches kindergarten at R.M. Moore Elementary in Waleska.

One student tested positive at Dean Rusk Middle School. A second-grade student tested positive at Sixes Elementary School and a first grader tested positive at Hasty Elementary.

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Officials said in a statement that all reported no symptoms at school on Monday but later got sick at home. They tested positive Wendnesday, prompting school officials to send a letter home to students. Anyone in close contact with the students and anyone in the teacher's class all now have to quarantine for the next two weeks.

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That totals to around 60 students in the district of 42,000.

The district is only encouraging mask-wearing among students and requiring it for teachers when they can’t socially distance.

Gehlbach talked to a mother of two and former teacher who said she thinks the district reopening should have been all online, or at least with extra precautions like requiring masks at school.

Miranda Walker has kids in sixth and third grade and kept them home to do distance learning.

“It doesn’t seem like a great number, but could have been zero had better precautions put into place,” Wicker said. “(They could have ) gone all digital, been requiring masks. Where are we going to be on Friday? Not having a mask requirement is a failing of this reopening plan and we’ll see that bear out over the next two weeks.”

Parents dropping off their kids Thursday morning were very positive and said the school year was off to a great start so far and that they have been social distancing, sanitizing and cleaning.

“We can’t live in fear,” one parent said.

“Protocols are followed and I thought it was fine,” another parent said.

Channel 2′s Chris Jose was in Cobb County, where crews were also busy cleaning up a classroom as a teacher waited test results based on her contact with a family member who tested positive. Her classroom will have to quarantine for two weeks.

Parents who support face-to-face learning told Jose they expected this, they know the risk and they’re thankful to have the option unlike other districts.

Caroline Hollier has three kids in Cherokee County schools. She said she still feels safe sending her kids to the classroom for face-to-face learning.

“I feel 100% safe,” Hollier said. “We talked to pediatricians. Several of my friends are in the health care industry.”

Hollier said school officials have been very communicative and open.

“They’ve been very much listening to the parents, and we’re just so thankful they gave us a chance to send our kids to school, because so many of us were wanting our kids to be face-to-face,” Hollier said.

The district sent a statement saying everything has been done in accordance with their COVID-19 exposure response plan.

But some fear that even just a handful of cases in four days means that four weeks from now, the schools will be closed.

In the last two weeks, Cherokee County has reported 796 new coronavirus cases, which is 25% of the county’s total of just over 3,100 cases.